Archive for February, 2007

Road to Bagdad Fun Run

February 28, 2007
The Turnout

Last Saturday, I went on my second actual fun run with the Dynamic MINI Collective. Approximately 30 MINIs made the trek from Wickenburg at 9:30 AM up the 93 and over the 97 to Bagdad, Arizona. That section, as you can see from the map, is extremely twisting and was quite exciting to drive.

Since it was a fun run, I decided to ease my speeding restrictions. Realistically, I had to or I never would have been able to keep up with my fellow club members. I was still way more conservative than I used to be, but not nearly as aggressive as the rest of them.

One Slow Motor Home

We were repeatedly cautioned by those who did the run last year that the 97 was an extremely twisty stretch of road. There were dips, blind turns, and countless curves in addition to gravel beds brought about by rain. We decided to take the road cautiously for the first time and then go more aggressively on subsequent passes.

They weren’t kidding. I think I kept it under 50 MPH the entire time and frequently dipped down into the 20s. By the time I got to the end, I was thirsting for some action. We turned around at the end and I started going briskly. Until that is, I caught up to a silver MINI that was still in caution mode. Grr. So I slowed down and two cars behind me did the same.

When we got to the end of that pass, my thoughts immediately drifted to how I could beat that guy to turn around and really open her up. Obviously, the two MINIs behind me had the same thought because they U-turned earlier than me—I would have done the same but I wanted to get where I could see oncoming traffic.

Luckily, the two in front of me were going fast. I kept it above 50 MPH for the most part (couple dips into the 40s, sadly) and even got it up to 84 MPH sometimes. Then it happened. The fun came to an end.

I came over a small hill to find the first car in our little pack (the third on the previous pass, who made a U-turn first) on the left side of the road in the scrub, the second car stopped, and debris strewn all over the road. My first thought was that the first car had hit an oncoming MINI but I couldn’t see anyone.

After stopping myself, I saw a crunched up Rhino in the desert on the right and someone lying down with the passenger in the second MINI looking at him. The passenger of the second MINI is a nurse and so she started helping the injured hunter. I sprinted up the road a bit and instructed traffic to slow down while Sandi went to see how she could help the nurse.

Soon, a Forest Service ranger was there and gave some order to the proceedings. He also contacted Bagdad emergency services. The MINI driver and passenger were slightly injured by the air bag deployments; the hunter had a head injury but was conscious the entire time. With the situation under control, the chapter president stuck around while the rest of us went to the meeting spot to let everyone know what was happening.

It was quickly decided that knowledge about this being an organized car club event was not helpful. We dispersed and met up again in Kirkland Junction, about 20 miles south of our position. We had lunch there in the bar‘s parking lot. The bartender was a grade-A witch, who instructed us that we couldn’t use the bathroom and that there was no lunch for us. Given that we probably were half the Kirkland population, you’d think that they’d love the business. (I’ve heard that this was quite the normal reception.)

Pit Stop in Yarnell

The leg from Kirkland to Yarnell was uneventful, but the section of road after Yarnell on the way back to Wickenburg was some of the twistiest (and cliff-hugging) road I’ve seen short of the PCH. I could rarely go past 40 MPH and often spent time in the 20s. But I was enjoying every minute of it nonetheless!

We regrouped in Wickenburg and waited for the chapter president and the totalled MINI owner before dispersing for our homes. Sandi and I went down the Vulture Mine Road and continued along its variations until we met up with I-10 at 335th Avenue. It was some boring highway driving from there on and we arrived home at about 4:30 PM.

There was a lot of pre-run hype about how this was the best run of the year and I was a little skeptical since the 191 run last year sounded like as good as it gets. I think this really lived up to its billing and I can’t wait to do it again on my own!

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Not-so-Apple-script

February 28, 2007

Neato way to replace Applescript with Ruby.

read more | digg story

Traffic Facts

February 28, 2007

Google Maps now has real-time traffic data. I checked Phoenix and I see lots of green. I assume that it means “go” but I have absolutely no context for what “go” would mean on a freeway. There’s no legend anywhere on the page. Digging through the help, I find this article that indicates green means an average speed of 50+ MPH on that stretch. Yellow means 25–50 MPH and red means under 25 MPH (grey indicates unavailable data).

Yahoo’s version is nice in that it shows average MPH at various points along the freeway, but you have to be at a sufficient zoom level for them to show up at all. Google’s shows up from a citywide zoom level all the way down.

I guess to maintain consistency across those levels, you really have to boil down the presentation to something as simple as red, yellow, green, and grey. Still, it’d be nice to have actual speeds at some point…

Costco Changes Its Tune (Ever So Slightly)

February 28, 2007

I know someone who bought a large-screen TV at Costco and returned it two years later to buy a bigger-screen TV and then returned that one a year later for a bigger, flatter one. Each time he only had to pay one or two hundred dollars over the return price.

And it was all perfectly fine by Costco. I questioned him repeatedly about it and it is actually within Costco’s return policy. I never took advantage of this glaring loophole because it seemed wrong and I knew that its abuse would lead ineluctably to a reevaluation. “No, no,” I was assured by everyone I talked to about it, “Costco charges a membership and they make up the difference somehow.”

I knew that it was too good to be true. The policy is completely ludicrous in its generosity. While Costco endeared itself to patrons who used the policy to its fullest, it simply was economically unfeasible to keep it up. At some point, someone in Costco was going to put a stop to it and my biggest fear was that they’d throw the baby out with the bath water: that they’d adopt Target or Best Buy’s draconian return policies in a penduluum move.

Looks like the party’s over. Happily, though, my fears of reprisal were unfounded. And the driving force was the Street. Makes sense—shareholders can’t stand unnecessary generosity on the part of their companies.

The Newest in New

February 23, 2007

I bought a MacBook last night. I am a laptop person; I fought it when I bought a 20″ iMac last year and I always end up carting it around the house. I just hate having to do all my computing at my desk.

As is custom, the first order of business was to christen it. (My iMac is called Moby, my iBook G4 is Whitey, and my non-functioning Titanium PowerBook was Thor. My original Bondi Blue iMac was Secret Agent Cat but I can’t recall what I named my first Macintosh—a Performa 575.) For some reason, I named it Scabby and used the icon on the left to represent it. It’s kind of a weird choice but that’s the way naming goes.

My initial thoughts after a day’s use and setting up with the experience of having had two other laptops and a few desktop Macintoshes:

  • This thing is small!. It’s got a 13.3″ screen but it looks like a shadow compared to my 14″ iBook G4—like half as thick, maybe 2/3 as heavy.
  • It feels just as responsive as the 20″ Intel iMac.
  • The most memory I’ve ever had in a computer was 768 MB prior to this laptop’s 1 GB but it sure doesn’t feel any better or roomier.
  • It’s so nice starting fresh with a new computer even though it’s a hassle reinstalling all the software.
  • Apple’s Migration Assistant really makes switching to a new computer such a trifle. I’ve never seen an equivalent in the Windows world. That’s a good thing!
  • 60 GB in storage is such a bad idea. I’ve got 15 GB free right now after one day of use. Looking over the hard drive’s contents and there’s 14 GB in Pictures, 17 GB in Music, and 7.73 GB in Documents. That’s right, 65% of my hard drive is taken up by just those three folders!
  • The keyboard is horrible. The gaps between the keys are so weird looking and the keys seem smaller to boot. So I’m constantly conscious of being precise when I’m typing. The touch response is pretty decent, though, so I might grow to love this keyboard as I get accustomed to it.
  • I finally hit the iTunes authorized computer limit. Apparently, I never deauthorized the Titanium PowerBook and the iBook G4 counts as two computers since it had its motherboard replaced last year. I had to deauthorize all my computers in order to authorize this one. Not a big deal and definitely less of one than I thought it’d be.

But I feel good about my computer situation again. I wanted to sell the iMac to mostly pay for the MacBook but Sandi talked me out of it. Not that that was a hard sell.

[UPDATE (2/23/2007): I can’t believe I didn’t mention the MagSafe power adapter. That thing is genius!]

Gadget Lust

February 13, 2007

It never fails. I buy a BlackBerry 7250 and I think it’s the cat’s meow. Then the Pearl comes out and I can live with it by dismissing its reliance on predictive typing. Then those RIM bastards had to go and develop the 8800. I’ve got nothing to object to, nothing to feel comfortable with my phone. *sigh* Except a two-year contract.

But It Feels Snappier!

February 12, 2007

Something gets posted to Digg about a preference setting that supposedly makes Safari load Web pages faster. People report that it does, indeed, go faster. Apple Safari engineer observes that the preference setting in question has been ignored since 1.3!

Book Finds

February 11, 2007

Today was the annual VNSA book sale. This year I went for quality over quantity. I also made a pact with Sandi that I wasn’t going to go crazy; I was only going to buy books that I would actually be reading instead of my usual rubric of “Well, you never know what you’ll need and I won’t be able to buy it for 50¢ in that future.”

I spent a total of $23.80, an all-time low on the following books:

Up in Arms

February 4, 2007

Last week, Flickr announced that they were going to be converting “old skool” members over to the Yahoo authentication system. As one of those users, I’m not looking forward to the merge but I’m not blowing a gasket about it.

It was neat signing in as an “old skool” member even though I’m pretty sure that there was no real difference in doing so. I’ve always felt a little tinge about getting in on things before they were popular or widely recognized for their greatness. It’s pretty stupid when you get right down to it, but I like to think of myself as an early adopter.

My major fear over the merge is that there’s going to be some screw-up. We’ve got 3,721 photos (about 5,000 or so still left to upload). Earlier this year, we purchased a pro membership and decided to use Flickr as an alternate backup location. We’ve carefully titled every photo (and tagged many of them) and I’d hate to see all that work go down the crapper so that Yahoo can more easily data mine my account. I’m sure that they’ve thought through the process, but it’s one of those points where bad things happen. I hate bad things happening.

But realistically, I’ll suck it up and convert. I don’t have any particular beef with Yahoo and I’ve always liked Flickr as a Web application. They’ve been berry berry good to me so I’ll stick with them.

Come Again

February 1, 2007

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